When Nancy Rodriguez began planning for college, she quickly noticed that her parents’ involvement in the process was limited. “They just knew about where I wanted to go,” says Rodriguez, a senior at the University of Southern California who grew up in Los Angeles’s inner-city community of Southgate.
With two parents who worked constantly and viewed education differently than other parents she knew, Rodriguez says she sometimes felt disappointed at her family’s lack of involvement. “My parents even said, ‘You could just find a job’ [instead of going to college],” she says. “At times, it could be really disappointing to hear that.”
Many students face less parental involvement in their college planning process than they’d like. Why is that? “Some parents may feel like they’re not sure how much they can contribute,” says William Vela, Director of El Centro Chicano at the University of Southern California.
Here’s how both students and parents can involve each other in the process more:
- Students: Realize that your parents’ educational process may have taken place in a different country.
- Parents: Recognize your own feelings about education, and discuss how they differ from your teen’s. Check out scholarships for Hispanic and Latino students and apply now.
- Students: Translate when necessary.
- Parents: Ask for clarification if needed.
- Students: Take the responsibility for gathering information about colleges.
- Parents: Set aside time to talk about college specifically with your teen.
Cultural differences and preconceptions about education may be the issue for some parents. “They might be people who immigrated to the United States, so their educational process happened in another country,” Vela points out. He adds that this can put parents in a peculiar situation: Though your parents certainly want what’s best for you, they may not know how things work when it comes to applying to college in the U.S.
Something as simple as translating or describing some of the major terms behind college planning can become a daunting task for students whose parents speak limited English. Rodriguez recalls telling her parents about grants she would receive—and being unable to allay her parents’ fears that those grants would not have to be paid back.
“There’s not a Spanish word that explained grants to my parents,” she says.